Trans Day of Visibility is a time to highlight what a positive life it can be and the problems people face to achieve it – Vic Valentine

Today is Trans Day of Visibility. This is a day to celebrate the difference that being visible as a trans person can make – showing other trans people what a positive trans life can look like and our wider communities all the different and diverse ways of being trans, and highlighting problems we face and how to change them.

This year, I find myself reflecting on what visibility means, as trans people have never been so much in the spotlight. In many ways, that is an undoubtedly positive thing. When I was first figuring out I was trans in my teens, I didn’t know a single other person who felt the same, and didn’t have any adult role models to look up to. That led to a number of years trying to make sense of myself, often feeling like I was doing so totally alone.

A lot has changed since then, and now people figuring out their gender identity have dozens of examples to look up to, and a wider cultural knowledge about what it means to be trans. That would have made a huge difference to me, and I know from talking to trans young people that it can help make sure that they don’t feel lonely or worried as they grow to feel confident and comfortable in themselves.

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But sometimes, visibility doesn’t feel so meaningful. There has been a 400 per cent increase in media coverage of trans people over the last decade or so. That coverage doesn’t often take care to help people who know less about trans people’s lives to understand what we’re really like, or the difficulties and struggles we face just because of who we are. And trans people, particularly trans women, feel like this increased visibility has made them less, rather than more, understood and welcomed by the wider public.

It’s totally understandable that people might not know lots about trans people. That’s why it’s so important that those of us with the opportunities to be visible, or to make things visible, try to do so in a way that gives people a fair picture.

We all deserve to live true to ourselves. But in Scotland, trans people can face a range of barriers to doing so, which can really affect our lives. On Trans Day of Visibility, I’d like to highlight some of those. In recent years, the number of hate crimes targeting trans people has tripled. For those of us who need to access medical care to live happy and healthy lives, we can face waits of over five years. Trans people report high levels of isolation and loneliness, as well as greater struggles with mental health and well-being. Often, this is a result of rejection, or experiences of discrimination or harassment.

Fortunately, small acts of acceptance can make a big difference. Things like supportive communities and workplaces, making it easier for us to access healthcare, or making sure that services we all rely on, like schools and hospitals, welcome us and treat us with acceptance and support.

Visibility can, and does, matter. But it has to be about more than just that. By working together, we can make Scotland a place where we all have a fair chance to live true to ourselves.

Vic Valentine is manager of Scottish Trans

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